A new study into children’s online privacy, a tool to help consumers protect and enforce their data protection rights and research into medical data sharing and consent have all been handed funding by the Information Commissioner’s Office, as part of the ICO Grants Programme.
The programme was launched in June with a call for proposals for independent research into new, practical solutions for privacy challenges and issues affecting UK citizens, both now and in the future.
The ICO received 117 applications which were assessed and filtered by two review panels, comprising both ICO experts and external peers.
The successful applicants in the first year of the programme are as follows:
Digital tool to help people enforce their data protection rights
Civil society organisation the Open Rights Group is collaborating with design studio IF to create a digital tool to help individuals protect and enforce their data protection rights, particularly in the insurance and banking sectors. It will be accessed by a web browser and will aim to set out individual rights in plain language. It is anticipated the tool will be launched around the same time as implementation of the GDPR on 25 May 2018. It will be supported by regular blogs and efforts to engage key businesses throughout its lifetime, to help improve standards of information rights practice in the financial services industry. The project has been awarded £59,581.
Online tool to evaluate the risk of re-identification of pseudonymised data
Imperial College London will create an online tool for both the public and organisations to evaluate the risk of re-identification of pseudonymised personal data, by assessing it via a new machine learning algorithm. This will lead to strong public accountability for data controllers and processors, as people will be able to see the level of risk in providing personal data to them. The aim is to make the data collection process safer and more transparent. The tool, named Harpo, will be available to all as a free resource and a ‘hackathon’ is planned to evaluate the data collection processes taking place in the UK. Development of the algorithm will begin early next year and it should be implemented by Autumn 2018. The project has been awarded £70,338.
Securely sharing medical information and supporting research
Teesside University is collaborating with the Connected Health Cities project, which aims to roll out the Great North Care Record (GNCR) in the North East and Cumbria. The project aims to create a tool for healthcare professionals to share medical information securely and to support research. The ICO will fund a project to develop and build a privacy tool for future use with the GNCR. Interactive focus groups will provide feedback on the development of the tool, ultimately providing Connected Health Cities with a consent management system for sharing medical information. This project is set to run for 12 months, beginning in April 2018 and has been awarded £82,544.
Children’s online privacy
Funding is also granted to the London School of Economics (LSE) for its project looking at children’s information rights and privacy. This will examine the evidence gaps in children’s capacity to consent, their functional skills and understanding of the commercial online environment. Research will be carried out to inform child-inclusive policies and recommendations for education. The end result will be an online toolkit for children to increase their awareness and competency around online privacy. Evidence obtained from this project will also help parents and teachers understand what children do online and how to provide support and guidance to them. The project is due to commence in February 2018 and will run for 12 months. The award amount is still to be finalised.
ICO deputy commissioner for policy Steve Wood said: “These four projects all support innovative solutions to key privacy challenges which can make a real difference to the public, and we look forward to seeing the results.
“We were encouraged to see how much independent thinking around privacy and data protection issues is going on. The ICO supports innovation, which doesn’t need to be at the expense of people’s information rights, and also has a remit of keeping abreast of new technologies and challenges, and we hope these projects will support those goals.”
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